Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
The Wax Girl is the Toronto-based electronic artist and producer also known as Alex Wright.
We’ve been happy to have The Wax Girl as part of Community Tree Music for a few months now and were curious to know more about his creative process and what he’s been working on. There are so many good things around the corner for The Wax Girl. We can feel it.
His wintery instrumental compositions have been drawing a lot of praise over the last two years since the release Anosmic EP in 2014 followed by Between Screens just earlier this year. In the film world this guy is a gem. His pieces are intensely cinematic and lend themselves to so much interpretation. Wright’s compositions meld into the visuals, creating finished films that are brilliantly unified. Today, Wright has released a new music video to accompany his latest single “Onwards”. The concept for this video is breathtaking and is an ambitious and impressive testament of what his music is capable of conveying on screen.
What are the common themes in your music?
I’ve always associated music to seasons and colours. Most of the music I’ve written to date, I tend to associate with Winter, which is why I’ve included a lot of wintry imagery in my album artwork. The cover of my latest album, Between Screens, is a photograph that my girlfriend Sara took, while we were driving from Montreal to Toronto on Highway 401 in the middle of the 2013 North American ice storm. It was easily one of the most terrifying experiences that I’ve ever had to endure. I feared for both of our lives. For ten gruelling hours behind the wheel. I had to simultaneously focus on the ice-laden road ahead, while pushing away intense feelings of despair that were increasing with each passing eighteen-wheeler in the ditch on the side of the highway. But as much widespread destruction that the ice storm caused, and as hopeless as things looked, we managed to get through it without a scratch.
Coincidentally, I feel that Sara’s photograph, and that whole experience, is a symbolic representation of what I was going through at that time in my life. Some other themes in my music might be dreams, subconsciousness, loss, technological singularity. It goes without saying that my music is open to interpretation.
What are your favourite instruments and effects to use?
In terms of instruments, there are the obvious ones; guitars, bass, piano, drums. But then there are the not so obvious ones. On Between Screens, I sampled a lot of found sounds, then processed them heavily, rendering them unrecognizable. For instance, one of the ‘synths’ on the album is a patch that I created by initially sampling myself playing wine glasses.
Another favourite ‘instrument’ (and I say that in quotes because it’s not a musical instrument by design) is my Tascam Portastudio 414mkii cassette recorder, which I found on eBay for really cheap. It’s very brittle and lo-fi. I like to record endless loops and create pads and drones with it. It’s completely unpredictable, and I never know what types of sounds I’m going to get out of it. The pitch control knob allows me to do sweeps, which is always pretty cool.
Effects-wise, I’m obsessed with reverbs and delays. Electro-harmonix makes some really amazing delay pedals. I also like to use compression in an artistic fashion. I use most of my effects in parallel to keep the dry signal pure, which is really important to me. At the mixing stage, I’m a big fan of Waves’ plugins. I use their SSL collection religiously.
How did you get into music?
I’ve been drawn to music as far back as I can remember. My parents nurtured my interest and bought me my first guitar when I was seven. Aside from a few lessons here and there, most of my practical and theoretical knowledge is self-taught. But I immediately became hooked by the allure of music composition when I was fourteen. My brother Max and I began recording songs together in our parents’ basement, using very basic recording gear that they had very generously rented for us from the local music store. Max would lay down an improvised drum track, then I’d layer in some bass and guitars. We’d show our recordings to our friends, they’d come over, and we’d record their songs. And then we recorded my sister Babs, singing beautiful renditions of some of her favourite songs. We really had no clue what we were doing from a technical standpoint, but we had a blast. I didn’t really know it at the time, but that period allowed me to develop my musical chops and train my ears. I have to give credit to those experiences and to everyone who was a part of them.
Since those days, the list of bands that I’ve been a part of has grown long. For some of those bands, I had creative control, whereas others, I had none at all. Within the last few years I decided that I owed it to myself to take a wholehearted stab at my own musical endeavours. Part of that decision was going to college and earning a diploma in Audio Engineering/Music Production. The development of The Wax Girl is also a product of that decision.
What attracts you most to instrumental compositions?
I like the fact that instrumental music is not conventional by today’s standards. From a composer’s perspective, it can be very liberating to not have to think about where a chorus or a bridge might fit in. There’s no, “Is this hook catchy enough?” or, “Will people sing along to this?” There’s no thinking about the end result, and how that might influence how you write. The emphasis is purely on the instruments, and capturing the present feelings that they might evoke.
Do you perform live?
I have yet to perform the music of The Wax Girl live. That is something that’s near the top of my to-do list, and I’m currently brainstorming ways to bring my music to a live setting. I have lots of experience on stage in front of audiences through previous bands that I was a part of, and although The Wax Girl is very much a studio project, I do miss all the wonderful feelings that come with performing live. Hopefully it will happen soon.
Who are your other favourite Canadian electronic artists
I’m a huge fan of Daniel Lanois. Flesh and Machine is one of my favourite albums within the last year. I saw him perform back in November at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto and I still haven’t been able to lift my jaw off the floor. His score for Slingblade made me realize the importance of music in film. Some other favourites: Holy F*&$. Crystal Castles. Caribou. The Luyas.
If your music was in a film, what would that film be about?
Just a mere thought of my music being in a film is enough to make me super giddy. I’m a total film geek and it would be a dream come true. I could see my music fitting in with similar works to those that Brit Marling and Mike Cahill have been a part of. I think that Another Earth is one of the greatest films ever. And their use of Radiohead’s Motion Picture Soundtrack in I Origins gave me goosebumps for days. They certainly know how to pair the right music with their intriguing sci-fi storylines. Another excellent film that I just saw is Ex Machina, which was beautifully scored by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury. I could see my music fitting into a film that explores similar themes.
What is post rock to you?
In a very small nutshell, post-rock is music that tells a story without having to rely on words. And because of that I feel that it’s a genre that lends itself very well to film. As for my experiences as a post-rock artist in Toronto, I have yet to explore the local scene with The Wax Girl. Once I start performing live, I’ll think I’ll have a better answer. There’s no doubt that Toronto is a wonderful city to live in. I’ve had some really positive responses throughout the rest of Canada. I’m thankful for all the support that I’ve received from campus radio, review sites and those who are listening/buying my music/telling their friends. I also have Community Tree Music to thank.
The Wax Girl’s new single “Onwards” is available on for licensing through Community Tree Music. Click here to listen and find music for your next project.